Submitted: 09-05-2007 by BoatsIsGood
So, after deciding I would actually use a kayak, doing a lot of research, reading kayak how-to books, opinions like those on this site, and generally noodling the whole thing out I've come to the conclusion that these reviews do not isolate and rate the kayak itself. We tend to rate our own (in)experience, our interactions with the sales people and manufacturer, our self-images, and how these elements integrate with a specific kayak model.
I'm Scottish, value-conscious, and a near-perfectionist to about 94% average accuracy. That said, here's my review of this relatively cheap and quite satisfactory product... also the other stuff around it.
8 of 10: Kayak
10 of 10: My basic kayaking skills from instructor's point of view as of this review (not when I got the kayak)
5 of 10: Dealer
6 of 10: Manufacturer
Kayak & Me - The replacement boat is generally shaped like one would expect a kayak to be shaped. Both ends point forward and backward along pretty much the same straight(ish) line. The stem and stern point mostly up and down. All the pieces are fairly well fitted and glued on. The boat floats both right-side and wrong-side up. Stuff in the storage/flotation chambers stays dry if I put electrical tape over the air pressure equalization holes in the bulkheads and/or if I'm bright enough to place the stuff in dry bags. The boat fits me well, and after adding the suggested padding in the suggested places, I fit it well. The color (yellow) is highly visible, and the materials are tough and light. After filing and sanding off the burrs and sharp edges, less blood leaks out of me and into the boat. I'm male, 43 years old, was recently 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and weigh 162 lbs (mostly water, bones, and muscle, with a little fat and some transitory internal tract content). Before I received professional training, the boat pointed generally where wind and waves pushed it and was not really easy for me to control while paddling it. I kept the skeg down a lot. The boat felt tippy. I suspected that the problem was not the boat. After receiving professional training and practicing a little, the boat does exactly what I want it to do, when I want it to do it, and without me thinking about it (or messing with the skeg, which now stays mostly up). I can roll it both ways, climb back into it if I bail out, keep it from going over, maneuver it in tight quarters, and move it pretty fast both forward and backward. The instructor observed that I had some sort of zen-like thing going on with the boat and the water. I'm not sure what that means, but I understand that most of what makes an object good or bad is me. Let me suggest that until we achieve basic kayaking skills, we consider not blaming our boats for unruly behavior.
So, I'm cool with the boat. It's cheap and does good. Fine. Boat and me get along now.
Dealer - Grrr with a smile the whole time. After taking delivery and getting to the house, I noticed that the first boat was quite bent, twisted, and unpleasant to behold after laying down $1432.42 in hard-earned cash (actually, I mostly sat on my butt in air conditioning when I was earning it). I kindly pointed this out and was treated with the assertion that the boat was just fine when the dealer received it. Out of respect for Paddling.net's Bytes I'm not going into the whole experience here. In the end, the dealership owner seemed to grudgingly discuss the situation with the manufacturer after I helpfully put together an easily accessible and easily postable website showing and describing the bent boat situation. Ahh, the power of potentially shared information... Also, be gently persistent and apply honey, not vinegar, in these situations. Pay for your boat with a credit card from a company that will wrestle with the merchant for you if the product is flawed. Don't leave the balance on the credit card. Tie your shoes. etcetera.
Manufacturer - Geez. I'm glad they offered to replace the bent boat. The replacement boat is a little bent, too. However, I don't have the energy or desire to continue the wrestling match or to consider defiling myself by invoking the professionals infesting our befouled legal system. How and why did they let the first boat out of the shop? I suggest that before you take delivery of your boat, level it with a carpenter's level a-thwart-ships across the coaming, then tape a weighted string from the centerline of the deck and hang it off the bow and stern. Step away a few paces and take a good, hard, critical look at it. If the string hangs off significantly to one side or the other, request a non-bent boat. Too bad you have to do this instead of trusting that it is done before it's delivered. I ordered and paid for the boat in October 2006, received the bent boat in November 2006, and received the mostly not bent boat in December 2006.
Let's put this in context. After I got my boat sorted out, I went and looked at some $3k-$5k kayaks. Very nice, very straight, high quality, attractive, solid, a few observable blemishes. It would bother me a little to scrape the hull against an oyster shell. I wouldn't get any more enjoyment out of it, and I've got $1.5k - $3.5k more cash in my pocket for important things like beer, sushi, and laundry machines. I'm taking it out tomorrow morning as the sun rises and will enjoy. Life is short. Pick a boat that pleases you, doesn't stress your budget, and get out on the water.